Film actors’ secretaries are responsible for making their employers’ lives easy and building up their star image. From handling all communications to vetting calls to lining up producers or directors to giving an opinion on the roles offered to the actor – secretaries do a lot for their employers, depending on their efficiency levels. Secretarial skills, PR skills, event management skills – everything works in this business.
What do they do?
She met him after making her debut in Hindi movies with Abodh and they have remained together for 25 years. One of the most well known secretaries (producer, director and writer too) in the film world, Rikku Rakesh Nath, has been an integral part of her life, admits actor Madhuri Dixit. “It is great to have someone take care of all the dates, fix appointments with the directors and producers and other people who want to meet you. It is difficult for an actor to keep track of everything going on,” says the film star.
Rikku has also had a good run with actors Ranjeeta Kaur, Pakistani actor Salma Agha, Anil Kapoor, the Shirodkar sisters – Namrata and Shilpa – Ameesha Patel and Kangana Ranaut, fixing dates for shoots and appointments, networking for them… the works.
No, it was not a ‘filmi’ background that got him here. “I belong to a semi-army family, which was also into farming and based in Hoshiarpur, Punjab,” is how Rikku puts it. A big fan of Dharmendra, he had rushed to meet the actor when the star visited his town, “and he told me I should come to Bombay.”
A national basketball player, Rikku was in a sports college in Jalandhar and completed his studies before making a move to entertainment city. That was in 1970 and he had dreams of making a movie. “I had brought about R3lakh from home and in nine months I had spent all of it – mind you, it was big money in those days. My struggle started then and at times I was really tempted to give it all up and go back home,” he says.
Then there was a small break in 1975 when a colleague recommended his name to Ranjeeta Kaur. He worked with her till she got married, and then had successful stints with Kapoor for 18 years, actor Salma Agha, singer Adnan Sami, and a number of other stars. The connections helped too. He wrote for the movie Dil Tera Ashiq in 1993, directed Mohabbat in 1997 and produced Gaja Gamini in 2000. “Today I am also doing events. I organise all the events for the singer Sukhwinder.”
So does he have any regrets? None whatsoever. “Madhuri, Namrata, Shilpa… they call and they are still family to me,” says Rikku. On the responsibilities of a secretary, he says they have to basically do field work to get their employers good roles. “However, we have to remember that we deal with people who are artistes, very creative people. They come with their own karma and shape their own careers. A secretary can only guide the star if he feels a wrong decision is being made or try and correct his and her plan of action. Nobody can make anybody successful, nobody can influence someone else’s destiny. It’s like a relationship between a child and parents. You can guide your children… but nothing more than that?”
Given a choice, he says, “I will always be there for Madhuri… For 25 years I have been taking care of her, doing her promos, deciding on the costumes, telling her if her make-up is right or wrong, deciding and getting the best for her,” he says.
The man says he believes in destiny. “I do not have a godfather, but I have my god. I have never been without work.”
And the changes? “In my time artists were more sincere, now I think people are opportunistic and focused only on money. I remember how we used to celebrate when Madhuri’s films, Saajan, Mrityudand, Sangeet were successful. It makes me very happy today that I had suggested that she do the movies,” he says.
Where Dixit is concerned, Rikku has been indispensable. “One needs a support system,” she says, adding “and I have always had my family’s and Rikku’s support. He used to handle my dates, talk to producers, and keep all pressures off my back.”
. Good communication skills
. Good networking and PR skills
. Good knowledge of films
. Strong on ethics
. Good listener, with ability to calm temper tantrums and handle a crisis like a scandal, etc
How do I get there?
You can take up arts or science in Class 10 or 11. A secretarial course helps. Graduate and postgraduate degrees add to your capacity to earn but a PR degree or diploma should be mandatory. An interest in films, ability to understand and empathise with people, brand building and management will help you perform do your job efficiently.